Chris Cornell once said in an interview (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the Seattle scene was different from other music scenes like New York where bands would climb all over each other to get ahead. The grunge scene in Seattle was comprised of bands who supported and learned from one another. In a lot of cases, musicians had gone to school together since they were young, been roommates or played in other bands together. What came out of that was a group of musicians ranging from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Mad Season to Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone and Temple of the Dog. They were all connected through their love of music and their lives devoted to it.
Mother Love Bone
It all started with a guy named Andy Wood. Andy was an amazing, off-the-wall front man who performed stadium-style acts in even the smallest of bars. When Andy met up with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ammet, the rest was history. Mother Love Bone was a beloved band on the Seattle scene, known for pushing the envelope.
Enter Chris Cornell, who upon moving to Seattle and looking for a roommate (trying for Stone who wasn’t interested) moved in with Andy Wood. Even before Mother Love Bone, Chris had formed Soundgarden and the two had a lot to learn from one another. Andy and Chris collaborated musically almost constantly, each recording a song for the other every day and meshing their musical styles. Right away, the story of three amazing connections developed.
In 1990, Andrew, the glue of the group passed away when he overdosed on heroin. A huge blow to the grunge scene, Andrew had always had his demons but interviews made it clear that Jeff, Chris and Stone were incredibly hurt. Without Andy, Mother Love Bone was no more.
With no desire to continue Mother Love Bone without Andy, Stone went to Mike McCready to create something new (who encouraged Stone to reach back out to Jeff). They sought vocalists, most of whose auditions tapes were just imitations of Andy. However, after searching, a tape came in that was totally unique- Eddie Vedder. The band rehearsed for five days and then on the sixth they played a live show to huge success. And so, Pearl Jam was born- a band that would span over two decades. A completely different sound than Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam became the pinnacle of grunge music in Seattle and beyond.
In 1998, Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam on drums after the break up of Soundgarden. He was given three weeks notice before tour and managed to learn eighty (eighty!) songs in that time. He was with them from then on.
Today, Stone looks to the most remembered grunge group of all- Nirvana- for their success. Kurt Cobain was highly critical of Pearl Jam in their early years, keeping them constantly on their toes, questioning what they were doing. In later years, Cobain made peace with Pearl Jam and the two bands took on the likes of Time Magazine, representing the Seattle grunge scene.
In 2000, Pearl Jam tied things together with an homage to Andy (Mother Love Bone) by performing his song, Crown of Thorns at their tenth anniversary show.
Temple of the Dog
Around the same time that Pearl Jam was forming, a super group (pre-fame super group that is) was formed. In the wake of Andy’s death, Chris Cornell had written a few songs about him and the emotions he was feeling. Inviting Stone, Jeff and their newest singer, Eddie onto the project, Temple of the Dog was born along with Matt Cameron and Mike McCready. With two amazingly unique vocalists at the helm and a really solid band to complete the sound, Temple of the Dog created music that has stood the test of time and the death of grunge. The time Eddie spent with Chris would prove to be a huge impact in Eddie’s career. Bringing him out of his shell and acting as a huge mentor, Chris helped to shape Eddie into the amazingly talented performer he is today.
Alice in Chains
Alongside these bands, another grunge power house came to life in the form of Alice in Chains. Unique vocals again set this group apart with the haunting voice of Layne Staley alongside the powerful guitar sound of Jerry Cantrell. Other band members included Sean Kinney and Mike Starr. While the band hit big right away (and their music is still popular today), Staley’s addiction issues made it difficult to function. The band had to take several long breaks through out their career and unfortunately in 2002, the grunge scene lost another hero when Staley passed away.
Before Staley’s passing however, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains along with another popular grunge band, the Screaming Trees merged to form Mad Season. Layne Staley fronted the band alongside Mike McCready, John Baker Saunders and Barrett Martin. Originally started by McCready and Saunders in rehab, the band became big when Staley joined eventually and the band was featured on an hour and a half radio broadcast put out by Pearl Jam. Originally known as Gacy Bunch, the band changed its name to Mad Season and the rest was history.
Grunge music has arguably come and gone but it still runs through our musical veins. Pearl Jam, two decades later, is still alive and well. Alice in Chains (without Staley) has toured in recent years and Temple of the Dog had a reunion tour in 2016. Nirvana is no more but members Dave and Pat have moved onto the very successful Foo Fighters. Soundgarden, one of the corner stones of the movement was touring until just this past week when the devastating death of Chris Cornell shook music lovers everywhere. To me, this shows the resilience of the movement, the power of a supportive music scene and the ability for music to bring people together everywhere. In the wake of this tragedy, we can seek refuge in the albums we’ve always loved, the voices that defined the scene and the musicians who are still with us.
Seattle was highly interconnected as you can see. Matt Cameron drummed for Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Temple of the Dog. Chris Cornell was in Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog but was also Andy Wood (of Mother Love Bone)’s room mate and later toured with them as the singer. Eddie Vedder played in Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard played in Mother Love Bone, Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam. Mike McCready connected Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam and Mad Season which through Lane Staley was connected to Alice in Chains and through Mark Lenegan was connected to The Screaming Trees (who also toured with Josh Homme at one point). It’s all one big web.
Peace, love and history.
Huge shout out to Ryan Mueller who helped this blog post come together!